Give parties/presidential candidates
Dec 31 deadline on restructuring
FG terrorizing us over restructuring – Gov Emmanuel
By Emma Amaize, Editor, South-South, Harris-Okon Emmanuel & Chioma Onuegbu
PAN- NIGER Delta Forum, PANDEF, the umbrella body of traditional rulers, elders, leaders and stakeholders of coastal states of Niger-Delta, has laid down the irreducible conditions any political party and its presidential candidate must attain, to get the support of the people of the oil-rich region in the 2019 general elections.
The group, which converged on Uyo, capital of Akwa Ibom state, last weekend, for a consultative parley on core issues affecting the region and way forward, reviewed the current happenings in the region, policies and actions of the Federal Government and gave no standing ovation to President Muhammadu Buhari.
Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, seems to be on top of the situation with his unwavering stand on restructuring, a key stipulation of the regional body, which is working in tandem with other regional groups across the country.
In fact, Abubakar sent his running mate, Dr. Peter Obi, to answer more questions from the group on his stand on restructuring and time lines for specific actions. The group had earlier called on presidential candidates of all the parties to address it on the subject matter, but on the face of it, Abubakar is the one that surmounted the preliminary hurdle.
National Chairman of PANDEF and former military governor of Akwa Ibom state, Otuekong Idongesit Nkanga, hosted the full assembly of the eminent group in his home turf for the first time since he assumed office. The national executive also formally inaugurated his state chapter, headed by Senator Etan Umoyo at the conference.
Nkanga, Doukpola, National Secretary, Dr. Alfred Mulade, PANDEF leaders, including Prof Godwin Darah (Delta) Senator Bassey Ewa-Henshaw, Col Paul Ogbebor (Edo), Dr. M. P. Okonny (Rivers), Senator Etang Umoyo (Akwa Ibom) and Chief T. K. Okorotie (Bayelsa are among the top officials that attended the parley.
The group in a communiqué issued at the end of PANDEF/South-South Stakeholders summit, Uyo, said it would “support only parties and candidates that align with the call for restructuring of the country, and that such political parties andcandidates must affirm to an irrevocable agreement with the people of the Niger Delta before December 31, 2018.”
Former Federal Information Commissioner and National leader of PANDEF, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, whose address was read by Deputy National Chairman, PANDEF, Chief Francis Doukpola, asserted, “We, the people of Niger Delta have continued to emphasize on the need for restructuring. Our country cannot continue this way. As was the dream of our founding fathers, we must have a functional federation. We must practice devolution of power, fiscal federalism and resource control. This is only what will make the country more united and peaceful.”
PANDEF chair, Otuekong Nkanga, who shed more light, said, “We, therefore, reaffirm our earlier position that we, the people of South-South zone, and indeed the Niger Delta, demand restructuring and 100 per cent resource control.”
He emphasized that “restructuring time table and time lines must be agreed in advance of the elections.” The former military governor warned that the region would not vote for any candidate that was not supporting restructuring, noting that the Forum was working in tandem with other regional bodies to ensure that the best for the country.
‘’Whether you are PDP, APC or, APGA, if your candidate does not believe on restructuring, we will not vote for you in Niger Delta. We want to see the timeline and anybody who does not believe on restructuring wants to reap where he did not sow I believe every region has something to live,” he said.
He added, “What is happening today in Nigeria, if we are doing well as a nation, the Niger Delta is very much involved, if we suffering, the suffering is more in Niger Delta because of our contribution to the economy of Nigeria, it is where the Niger Delta goes that the nation should go.”
Accord with Afenifere, Ohaneze Ndigbo, Middle Belt Forum
“PANDEF’s working relationship with socio-cultural organizations and leaderships of other zones in the country viz Afenifere, Ohaneze Ndigbo, Middle Belt Forum and Northern Elders Forum in advocating for restructuring of this country is to promote true federalism, equity and justice.”
“It is our well considered opinion that the present structure of the country is detrimental to our economic and socio-political development. Our country today is at a cross road, it has never been this divided. We want a leadership that would unite the people of this country, a leadership that would appreciate our diversity and respect our uniqueness, a leadership that would have respect for rule of law,” he asserted.
Mulade’s guarded clarification
However, PANDEF Secretary, Dr. Alfred Mulade, clarified that the group had not endorsed any candidate, saying the regional group threw open the door in the build up to the primaries the door for all the presidential aspirants to meet with it. He added that while a few of them showed up and members asked critical questions, others did not.
Mulade pointed out that the consultative meeting was a follow- up to the earlier meeting with Abubakar to probe his mind further on his agenda for the region in particular.
‘’It is important I make it clear because this is not a political forum. We want to be part of the process as such it is an opportunity to hear from him. There is no string attached,” he stated.
Abubakar re-assures PANDEF on restructuring
Alhaji Abubakar, who spoke through Dr. Obi, reaffirmed his commitment to restructure the country if voted into power come 2019.
“I am only joining to say that we need true federalism and we need it urgently. It will make Nigeria work. There is no country in the world that things are working as it is working in Nigeria. We must tell our leaders the truth and we must demand that they do the right thing.”
‘’Niger Delta is where the resources are and when you travel around, you are not able to see anything on ground. In this country, you must insist and there is no reason in being fearful. We are committed to building a better Nigeria and unify Nigeria. We will focus on turning things around and we will be governed by the rule of law”
He accused the federal government of using security agencies to abet and aid what is wrong and listed Akwa Ibom and Rivers as states as being on the frontline of crisis, adding, ‘’and nobody is talking, when you talk you become an enemy.”
They are using restructuring to intimidate us – Gov Udom
Akwa Ibom state governor, Governor Udom Emmanuel in his remarks, noted, “We want the country to have true federalism so that we will not have all these problems we are having. If we have a state Police, it will be more law abiding and not this war saw they are talking about.”
“They are using this restructuring to intimidate us in the Niger Delta, everything is about politics, and when this 2019 comes and go, what will we do again? Everything is on partisanship, it should not be. Even though they have sounded the drum of war, this state is still the most peaceful one in the country,” he said.
What N’Delta ‘ll do if FG employs ‘federal might’
Regarding the 2019 general elections, PANDEF warned that the people of the region will “vehemently resist” any attempt to make use of “federal might” to subvert the will of the Niger Delta people in the 2019 general elections.
It urged “Governors of the South-South zone not to be distracted by the antics of enemies of the zone as the people are resolutely with them,” emphasizing “the firm resolve of the peoples of South South region to resist any act of intimidation and aggression against the governments and the people, or any attempt to make us slaves in a country that has been built with our resources and sweat.”
In a communiqué signed by Nkanga and others, “PANDEF calls on the public and the International Community to hold theFederal Government, Inspector General of Police, Mr Ibrahim Idris and the Commissioner of Police, Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Musa Kimo responsible for any breach of peace in Akwa Ibom state, and other states in the South-South Zone.”
It admonished security agencies in the country “to refrain from all partisan acts and focus on their primary roles of defending the territorial integrity of the country, and securing the lives and property of all Nigerians.”
Clark’s reverberating fury
A range of elders and leaders barred their minds on state of affairs in the region and country. However, Chief Clark was particular that as Nigerian people prepare to go into elections, “our unity as a people and the common resolve which the founding fathers of this nation covenanted among them to live in peace and harmony, have become seriously questioned and almost at the brink.”
“Nigeria has suddenly become a home to the poorest people in the world and has earned for itself, the very negative image as one of the most unsafe places to live in. For a person of my age, now going to 92 years, who has been an active player in the political evolution of the country, it is a thing of great pain and shock to me that killings of fellow Nigerians are now almost taken for granted and as part of our daily living,” he bemoaned.
Clark asserted, “Indeed, it is even more disturbing that our young men and women who wear the colours of this country to serve in the military are now being slaughtered in countless numbers. Yet still, some people will like to play politics with all this.”
His words, “This forthcoming election is also very important because our national economy has suffered the most negative downturn of recent years. We have lost millions of jobs in recent times, the unemployment rate of our youth continues to soar to the rooftop, and prices of even basic foodstuff are now out of the reach of the average Nigerian. After heaving a sigh of relief in the past few years, we have once more become one of the indebted countries with our total debt increasing now to over ¦ 2.4 trillion.”
deplores alleged desecration of security agencies
“I am also very worried at the increasing trend of desecrating our national institutions, particularly the Nigeria Army and the Nigeria Police Force in using them for political gains. More and more, certain persons in political class have continued to drag the Police to become surrogates in achieving their nefarious political ends.
“That is why in a place like Bayelsa state, eight Commissioners of Police have been posted and reposted in a matter of three months. Here in Akwa Ibom state, we have continued to see the overtly partisan role police are playing.
“In the Ekiti and Osun elections, we all saw how men of the Nigeria Police Force were openly used to intimidate political opponents and in some cases, directly perpetuating acts which are by all standards violations of every existing electoral laws.
No power monger should N’Delta people
“Coming to our own Niger Delta, we have collectively worked to bring peace to this troubled region. Our efforts made the Niger Delta Avengers to declare a ceasefire in September 2016. This is the peace we enjoy till today and oil production now stands at over 2,300,000 barrels a day. Sadly, some people who believe that they control political power at various levels want to tamper with this peace and bring crisis to the area.
“Let me take this opportunity to caution that it is in our collective interest to ensure that the Niger Delta is not turned once more into a theatre of war. Let no power monger dare the will and resolve of the people to allowing peace to reign in our area.
Leave A’Ibom gov alone
“Take for example, here in Akwa Ibom state where we are, the governor has obviously done creditably well and continues to enjoy the resounding applause of the people.
“How can anyone, therefore, try to disturb the peace in a place such as this where the governor is visibly high performing, well-loved and well respected by the people? How you can easily stampede such a person easily such a person when the people are with him? The answer is obviously no,” he said
Nkanga flays FG’s purported bullying of S-South states
Speaking in the same manner, Nkanga said, “Permit me to also bring to the attention of this meeting, some recent developments in the country and the region, in particular. Few days ago, we saw the display of absurd political rascality here in Akwa Ibom state, where five former members of the state House of Assembly, fully aided by the Police, attempted unsuccessfully to impeach the Speaker of the House, and to cause breach of peace in the State.”
“And just yesterday (last Thursday), it is reported that the military disrupted the selection and screening of applicants to the Rivers State Neighborhood Watch Corps Agency, a scheme established by law in the state. It is worthy to that similar schemes exist in states like Lagos unhindered. We must, in the strongest terms, condemn these unwarranted acts of intimidation and provocation against the people and governments of the South- South states by agents of the federal government.
“Meanwhile, the government is engaging itself in needless show of force in the region, while men and officers of the nation’s armed forces and innocent citizens are being killed daily by Boko Haram and other terrorist organizations in the country.
‘Promises and promises on 16-point agenda’
“It is necessary to recall that the National leader of PANDEF, Chief E. K. Clark on 1st November 2016, led a delegation of traditional rulers, chiefs, women and youths of the Niger Delta to visit President Muhammadu Buhari. During that visit, we presented to Mr. President, the historicc 16-point demand, otherwise now referred to as the PANDEF 16-point agenda, to help sustain the relative peace at the time, and to further advance the development of the region. But sadly, two years after, but for one or two issues, all we hear from the government is still promises and promises,” he said.